Not everyone is lucky enough to live where there is already an established conversation group for German. I asked Paul what advice he would give to anyone who wants to start a Stammtisch in his/her own area. "First off, try to find an existing Stammtisch," he says emphatically, adding, "In unity there is strength. It's better to go to an existing one than start from scratch. If the group needs improvements, work with the other folks to make it better. That's what I did!"
Based on his experience with the Seattle Stammtisch, Paul Reed Smith offers these tips for a successful German conversation group:
- Meet every week at the same time and place.
- Have a Stammtisch sign (Word.doc) and flags for the table.
- Pick a place with good acoustics; avoid loud bars.
- A good menu with reasonable prices helps attract people.
- Have at least one regular coordinator/moderator.
- Use the Internet to promote your Stammtisch.
Here are some other conversation-group models found in various locations that offer the opportunity to speak German with other people who like to speak German:
Colleges and Universities
Many German departments at colleges and universities sponsor German conversation groups, either on or off-campus. Sometimes these are a part of the German course offerings, but there are also more informal conversation groups for German available in connection with a college or university. Check to see if there is already such a group in your area. As the Seattle Stammtisch clearly demonstrates, a town with a college or university with foreign languages and foreign students can be an ideal location for a Stammtisch.
German 'Meetup' Groups
Another type of German conversational group is connected with Meetup.com, an online service that Time magazine has called: "A convenient, non-threatening way to connect to other people who share similar interests and live nearby." There are German and other Meetup conversational groups all around the globe. (See sample links at the end of this article.) Meetup groups vary in both size and quality. Some German Meetup groups lack solid organization, while others are well-established and reliable.
The Chicago Stammtisch mentioned earlier got its start in connection with the local Goethe Institute. (There used to be a GI in Seattle!) The Goethe Institute in Washington, DC sponsors a once-a-month Stammtisch for local German-speakers at bars such as Cafe Mozart, the Brickskeller or the Gordon Biersch Brewery. From the Washington Post: "Anywhere from 20 to 40 members attend, and almost all conversation is in German. Some are obviously native speakers, but a good number are students from the Goethe-Institut's language classes who want a chance to practice and drink good beer." If your city has a Goethe Institute, see if they offer a conversation group or would help set one up. The Goethe Institute Web site (link below) has a list of Institutes worldwide, including the 10 located in the USA and Canada.
German Conversation Overseas
Even American or British expats living in Germany or Austria have organized their own beer garden meetings or conversational Stammtische. An example is the Friday Stammtisch run by the German English Association (GEA) in Munich. The Munich group has far more than a single conversation table. Every Friday for the last 15 years, the Munich GEA has taken over an entire bar!
There are many other conversational groups all across Germany and Austria. The American Women's Clubs sponsor conversational meetings from Berlin to Vienna. You can locate such groups at the AWC Web site (below).
Finding or Founding a Stammtisch
There already may be a German conversation group established in your area, but if not, you could start one! You'll find Web links to some existing groups below, but not all German conversation clubs/groups have a Web site.
WEB LINKS for German Conversation
- Seattle Stammtisch
- Goethe Institute
- Chicago Stammtisch
- Institute weltweit - Städte
- Goethe-Institute in USA/Kanada
- Gruppen - Dallas/Ft. Worth
- Federation of American Women's Clubs Overseas
- GEA Munich - Stammtisch
- German Meetup.com (German groups)
- Ann Arbor Stammtische
- Dallas Stammtische
- Speaking German (About.com)